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One way to shift into an inquiry mindset, even when it’s hard

Living Well

Misty, with her hands on her hips, faces two different paths on a dirt road, surrounded by tall grass and trees.

I rarely give advice but people often ask me, how do I juggle it all and stay sane?

“Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.” ~ S. S. Dhillon

Do you ever feel like challenging the word “break” to describe time away from school? As a busy working mom, and long-time educator, I often feel my “break” comes when I have sustained time in my office, writing, or working on a project.  A break with children is like playing concierge to the most discerning guests for weeks straight!  Can you relate?

Isolating times (long stretches alone with children) affords me opportunities to get to know my limitations. The hardest moments are when the days are long and challenging or I’m in my goal-oriented, perfectionist zone and I don’t seem to “get a moment.”  

When I hit three “bad” days in a row, I really know it’s time for me to reframe. I have to call upon my hard-earned strategies (thank you years of therapy) to nudge myself toward a more positive mindset.  I’m humbly offering one key inquiry move I make below.

Key Inquiry Move: Think like a researcher

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and my academic training have empowered me to frame my thoughts into questions.  Questions are inquiries, and inquiry is my JAM!  I recognize that “thinking like a researcher” may seem so simple, but truly embodying this move, and using it consistently in real-time, has been an ongoing practice for 20 years or more.

Engaging with questions, especially those that start with, “What if…” or “What might happen when…” puts me in a playful relationship with my context.  In turn, this eases the inner perfectionist. You might know her? She’s the nasty critic who lays on the judgment that there’s one way to do life, and the way you’re doing it isn’t right. Instead, when I think like a researcher, I am more experimental and approach my life with more curiosity and levity.

Here’s one question that’s made a difference for me, especially when my children were younger:

What happens when life with children becomes an emergent curriculum?  

Curriculum is like a course we run… it’s the unfolding of planned and lived experiences.  Eva and Winton’s ideas, likes, dislikes, successes, challenges, level of fatigue, and relentless requests for snacks shape what “gets done” in our day. While I have an abundance of learning experiences that I’d LOVE to do, and sometimes we actually do them, I am learning to listen and co-create a rhythm with my children. Eva, Winton and I are creating personalized curriculum each and every day. While it is NOT easy, I’m learning that “emergent” is about honouring the opportunity that surfaces and finding the abundance within it, even if it is momentary.

What might being a researcher look like in real life?

Here’s an example:

My son Winton loves to dig… anywhere that he can find a patch of dirt. I hate to admit this, but sometimes I find this activity boring to participate in. Do you feel me here?

I decided to apply a researcher’s lens to transform my thinking. I framed digging with a personally compelling context. I invited Winton to join me as a geologist who is discovering a space rock… for THE VERY FIRST TIME! 

I began with my favourite inquiry question, “What if…?”

Searching for gold, buried treasure, and refining our excavating techniques have now become a favorite activity, for both of us. Who knew?! 

What are you learning about emergent curriculum?

What layers might you fold into your play with children to amplify your interest, and maybe your child’s learning opportunities?

You are not alone in your journey with children.  I am part of a bigger village of educators who are learning alongside and getting messy with it all. Xo

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